SEO is one of those marketing strategies that’s standing the test of time. While some things about SEO have changed (remember the olden days when websites put up blogs stuffed with keywords and the Google algorithm would just grab them up?), fixing SEO so it continues to work is a powerful business activity.
When we strip it down to its basics, SEO does two things:
- It answers a question and gives viewers the information they’re looking for
- It tells Google (and Alexa) what your site is about so it can best meet its user’s needs
SEO is broad enough to give lots of room for mistakes—and room to make improvements that will boost your rankings and put your site in front of the right eyeballs.
SEO Fix #1: Know What They Want
A person searching for “COVID-19 symptoms” is looking for something very different than the person searching for whether a local business closed because an employee showed COVID-19 symptoms. This is called search intent. We’re all familiar with that annoying feeling that happens when we search for one thing and the results give us something different.
To understand how to satisfy intent with your SEO, take a look at your customer persona. What are their pain points? How do they describe them? How does your company solve these problems? The answers to these questions should highlight the intent of searches you want to target, and the solutions you provide to their problem.
Another part of intent is the type of information the user is seeking. This can be separated into four categories: go somewhere, find out something, buy something in a general sense, or conduct a specific transaction (like buying a product from you). When you’ve identified this intent, you can customize your SEO to satisfy it.
Use SEO to capture searches for both intent (i.e. what are symptoms of COVID-19) and solution (i.e. where to get tested for COVID-19).
SEO Fix #2: BERT is Your Friend
The evolution of Google’s search algorithm has been frustrating at times as we try to keep up. There was the ‘keyword stuffing phrase’ and then the ‘500-words-is-magical’ phase, and then the ‘long content is king’ phase. But the BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) model that was introduced in October 2019 is actually logical and helpful!
Pandu Nayak explains in a blog for Google how BERT works. First of all, BERT is the result of a lot research into the science of language—using machine learning to sift through all the data. Before BERT, Google used search terms to try to pull up relevant links. Now, it’s about intent (YAY!), and BERT is particularly interested in prepositions.
Nayak uses the example of the search “Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy”. Previous results would be about getting a prescription filled. Now, results give information on whether a family member or friend can pick up or fill a patient’s prescription. The phrase ‘for someone’ is key to giving a more effective result.
BERT allows searchers to use more natural language to answer their questions. In turn, using natural language in your SEO that clearly matches your customer’s search intent will help your website show up for your targeted audience.
SEO Fix #3: Good, Quality Links
PBNs (Private Blog Networks) are not an effective SEO strategy. While this chart from Neil Patel shows how important link building is to improving your ranking, the type of links you use can make or break you:
As Neil points out, even though PBNs can initially increase your algorithmic website authority, Google really doesn’t like websites using them. And if it catches you doing so, you’ll be penalized. It’s just not worth it. If your business is in it for the long term, use credible links where they fit naturally and allow your ranking to grow over time.
Include links to sites that have regular, numerous inbound links, are actively updated, and continue to grow with new links. Expert sites and niche pages that are well known in your industry are two examples of quality link opportunities.
Speaking of updating, this is another very important part of SEO. Pay attention to what’s changing within the field of SEO and update accordingly and keep your website and plugins updated. The last thing you want is a site with errors because you haven’t kept it maintained (and Google doesn’t like it either).
SEO Fix #4: Be Very Social
The activity on your social media sites impacts your SEO ranking. So, make sure all your social pages are linked to your website and post things that inspire engagement from your followers.
You know how people talk about Google watching everything you do? That’s an article for a very different article… but as far as your business goes, Google is watching engagement on your social media pages and sites with more engagement get higher rankings.
SEO Fix #5: Whatcha Watching?
We’ve spent the last few years focusing on written content: using great keywords, long-form content, adding quality links into that content… and then Google goes and prioritizes videos! OK, it’s not quite as simple as that. But having videos on your site that directly meet the intent of your visitors will generate better rankings than that same content in text form.
As podcasts become an increasingly popular way of acquiring information and being entertained, Google is also adding podcasts into their SERPs. At this point, there’s still less competition amongst sites providing video content over sites providing text only. While that will change over time, video will continue to appeal to viewers and Google.
SEO Fix #6: Optimize for Mobile
The best site you can possibly build will lose up to half of all potential traffic if it’s not optimized for mobile. Statista reported that in 2018, 52.2% of all web traffic (that’s worldwide) was from mobile phones. And it’s not just because more and more people are searching for content while on-the-go. Even at home, many people are exclusively using their smartphones to do everything online.
Make sure your images, text, and forms are all mobile-friendly and load quickly. If they’re not, Google’s far less interested—no matter how on-point the content might be. You can use this Google tool to test how mobile-friendly your website is.
You can improve mobile responsiveness by using tools to compress and optimize images, and uploading videos on a third party streaming platform.
SEO Fix #7: People Come First
With all the technical things that go into achieving a great ranking, it’s easy to forget the most important metric: people. Yes, you want eyes on your pages (which comes from that great SEO-optimized website). But you want those eyes to stay on your site, find exactly what they’re looking for, and convert to customers and regular visitors. Without people, your site is pointless.
Keep the user experience at the top of your mind when working on everything involved in your website.
SEO Fix #8: Featured Snippets
In almost every Google search, an information box shows up at the top of the results. This is called a Featured Snippet, and it’s golden because it’s often the most obvious thing on a page—without paying for the spot!
Here’s how to improve your chances of showing up in a Featured Snippet: first, do your keyword research to identify which keywords are the most popular and have the least competition.
Next, look for the questions your target audience frequently ask, and give those answers in simple and clear terms on your website. You can even set it up as a Q & A. If your answer involves more than one statement, use a bullet or numbering system to provide your answer. (You’ve probably already noticed in your own searches how often the snippet involves a list.)
Make sure your answers and content are better than your competitor’s. And if you’re in a field where answers can change (ahem… SEO fixes), keep your answers current. You can also work on getting other sources to link back to your content, always publish teasers and links to your content on social media, and engage on Q & A websites like Quora.
This type of Q & A content is also effective in accessing voice search responses. For many platforms, a response from “OK, Google” or “Hey, Siri” includes a website link being sent to the user’s mobile device.
SEO Fix #9: Fresh, Relevant Content
In some ways, every fix involves content. But your overall content strategy is important. Here’s what Google says about content (which is directly related to links): “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
Schedule in checks to make sure your old content is still current and relevant. There’s nothing worse than having outdated content or links to products and services you no longer offer.
Posting new content frequently is also important. Set up a plan for content development that takes all your SEO knowledge into account and stick to it. You can also repurpose podcasts and videos as new content by providing a description, a full transcription, and a link to the media.
SEO Fix #10: Celebrate Your Brand
We talk a lot about brands and branding, and that’s a good thing when it comes to SEO. Google likes brands just as much as we do! There are a couple of ways to help your brand stand out on searches. The first is with your knowledge panel.
Type your brand or company name into a search. Does a knowledge box pop up on the right of the screen? If not, try different variations until it does. Then, you can click on the link below the box that says “Claim this knowledge panel”. Provide all the information you can, and within a few days you’ll have access to this panel and control over what shows up there. It adds credibility and trustworthiness to your brand to have this set up.
Great reviews and testimonials published online also help to build your brand—and they tell Google that you’re legitimate, trustworthy, and referrable.
The other thing that helps build your brand? All the other steps we’ve already shared. That’s the powerful thing about fixing your SEO so it starts working: it’s a virtuous cycle. Everything you do makes everything else better!